Most Uplifting Quote

Some soothing greenery.

This morning, my mother sent me a forwarded e-mail from one of her favorite sights. Sometimes these quotes are beautiful, and sometimes, I find them barbed with intention of what my life should be and isn’t. That’s probably just me projecting, but nonetheless, is how I sometimes feel. Today’s quote, however, struck a chord with me and I wanted nothing less than to shout a hearty “Amen!!!” Since, it is still early for some members of my family, I held back, but I wanted to share it with you:

“Prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness.” ~ St. John Chrysostom

That just lifted me up, you know? You all know that I have my “prayer chair” and that I find such refuge when I swing in it, but this goes beyond that. I want to be a cheerful, worry-free person. I strive for it. How wonderful that what I do everyday will help me to achieve that goal, and for once, I’m doing something right!!!! Yay!!!!!!!

Swings

Since I was a little child, swings have always been my go-to method of calming myself. I never really thought about it in that way until I happened to be in a local farming store a few weeks back and sat down in an egg-shaped swing that was on display. My troubles flew away as I gently swung from the chair. It was a stand version, suitable for placing inside or out. It was nice, but a bit too much for my budget. I reluctantly got up and continued shopping.

The next week I was back for something, and discovered the swing was on sale. It was still a bit of a stretch, but I reasoned that I needed it for my mental health, what with all that had been going on with child #3. I bought it and haven’t regretted my decision for a moment.

You see, I turned my new egg-shaped swing, into my prayer chair. This is where I go when I need to pray for someone or something or work a prayer strategy. The movie “War Room” is where the idea of having a special place to say your prayers and work a prayer strategy came from and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

It’s amazing how God works in our lives, especially if we write down what or who needs our prayers and use that to remind ourselves how to pray. We need to spend time every day in prayer. If we do, our lives would come together more in peace. I find that everything is better when I pray every day and make that special chair time with God. Then, not only do my worries fly away with the freedom of the swing, but they fly to God, who can figure them out and enlighten me!!! I need all the help I can get!!!!

Give Me S’more!

My Yummy “Grown-up” S’more!

It may have started out as bad grammar, but there is no doubt that s’mores have become a staple to children here in the US. What exactly is in a name? Well, to the best of my knowledge s’mores received their moniker by someone wanting “some more.” This got glued together (much like the s’more itself!) to become “s’more” and a new treat was born.

The traditional s’more is made of graham cracker, milk chocolate bar, and toasted marshmallow all together in one gooey, ooey, sandwich mess, which one can’t help smearing all over one’s face, fingers, and clothes. It is a sweet treat beloved by children all over the United States.

Adults, on the other hand, may find them a bit too sweet, and, let’s be honest, a bit too messy. Kids love the gooey, chocolatey, sugaryness of it all, while parents are just a bit sickened by the amount of sugar their offspring can consume in front of a blazing fire. In our family, I have to put a limit on the amount allowed or my dear children would finish the bag of marshmallows!

So, how does one make a s’more? Simple. You will need this:

A bag of your favorite, gf brand of marshmallows (most marshmallows are naturally gf, but it’s wise to check your bag every time as companies are want to change ingredients!)

A package of your favorite milk chocolate bars (Hershey is a staple for these in the US)

A box of gf graham crackers (Yes. You can make these, but for a quicker solution, I bought a box of them!)

A roaring fire

Sticks for roasting said marshmallows (We just break a few sticks off in our yard from young saplings, but I hear they actually sell metal poles for this now. We prefer to “rough it!”)

Start your fire and when it is going nicely, skewer your marshmallow onto your stick and roast gently on all sides, being careful to get it nicely browned. Lighting it on fire and turning it black is not recommended, however, I have a couple of impatient children who love their marshmallows this way!

My marshmallow roasting.

Break your graham cracker in half so that you have two even sides (or approximately!)

Place a piece of chocolate approximately the same size as the half-graham cracker piece on the bottom of your sandwich.

Sliding the marshmallow onto the chocolate.

Gently slide the beautifully browned marshmallow onto the chocolate covered side of the graham cracker sandwich by placing the other piece of the graham cracker over the top and pulling the stick out. There you have it – a s’more.

Yum!!! (with dark chocolate, of course!)

Now, if this sounds like a complete, slightly sickening, mess to you, I do have a suggestion. Instead of the milk chocolate bar on your s’more, switch it out for a piece of lovely dark chocolate. This gives the s’more a more sophisticated taste and is far less sweet that it’s sister sandwich! Problem solved! I prefer this, though I know children everywhere will disagree! “Give it a whirl,” as my dad used to say and you will definitely be hearing, “I want s’more!” You may even get a “please” out of it!!!

Just Peachy!

My lovely peaches!

The other day I bought some rather large peaches from a local store. I wanted to make peach freezer jam. If you’ve never tried freezer jam, I encourage you to do so and soon! Freezer jam is just the fruit, sugar (or other sweetener,) lemon juice, pectin, and calcium water! There is no cooking and it is just like having a fresh piece of fruit on your toast. Since that would be quite awkward, I prefer this method!

You will need the following:

About six pounds of peaches, give or take a peach!

Pomona’s Pectin (available online or in your local health-food store) This is the pectin I like the best. It works and it’s gluten free! It also comes with the calcium powder, which you will add to water to make the calcium solution.

Fresh squeezed lemon juice – 1/2 a cup

Sugar to taste (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups)

3 Tbsp. of pectin mixed with the sugar

1/2 cup calcium solution

Water

Ice

One large pot

Two large bowls

One metal potato masher with the little squares

Approximately 7 – 12 clean glass canning jars depending on size,) rings, and lids (used ones are fine since we’re not expecting to can them) or other freezer-proof containers.

You will need to blanch the peaches. For this, you will boil water in a large pot and drop the peaches gently into it once the water is steaming (I did three to four at a time.) After about two minutes you will remove your peaches from the boiling water and place them in an ice bath to cool and stop the heating process. (Ok, so there is some cooking involved! It just doesn’t mean you’re going to boil the heck out of the jam itself!!! You’re going to preserve that fresh fruit flavor!)

Blanching the peaches.

Once the peaches are cooled you will peel them. Start by pinching the skin and then gently peeling it back. Child #1 and I had quite the good time skinning the peaches and making them into slimy, large orange globes!

Peaches resting comfortably in the ice bath. Looks like I need to add more ice!!!

Next, slice the peaches into a large bowl. When all the peaches are sliced, add 1/2 a cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 a cup of Pomona’s calcium mixture, and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sugar, depending on taste, mixed with 3 Tbsp. pectin. Make sure to mix the pectin with the sugar when you pour it in, or you will end up with lumps and it won’t set correctly. If there’s anything worse than lumpy gravy, it’s lumpy jam!!!!

Use your old-fashioned potato masher to mash the peaches into a mash with a few large chunks left.

Finally, bottle your jam into freezer-proof containers with at least an inch left for expansion, remembering to mark them with the type of freezer jam and the date. Freeze to remember a warm day in the middle of summer in the middle of winter!!!

Post-Partum Flashback

Grey clouds of post-partum depression will lift.

Here in the states, we have a program that explores what regular people would do in uncomfortable situations. Tonight, I happened to tune in and they were talking about post-partum depression. It hit me hard.

The show pictured a young mother (an actress) with various people overhearing her conversation with her friend (another actress) or her husband (you guessed it, another actor.) As they gave her bad advice about how she’d get over it, or how she should be so happy to have this beautiful baby, completely ignoring that fact that she needed major help, strangers stepped in to help her.

It was heart-warming that so many people reached out to this young woman, who they thought was suffering. In the end, the host came out to tell them that they were just actors, but that they were impressed at how these strangers took the time to help someone who they thought was in need.

This subject is near and dear to my heart. I had post-partum depression after child #1 and only missed it with child #2 since the doctors knew what medication had worked the last time and immediately put me on it to stave off the depression they knew was coming. After that, I discovered I had celiac disease and changed my diet to strict gluten-free, which changed my whole body chemistry.

When children #’s 3 & 4 were born, the medication that had worked with children #’s 1 & 2 no longer worked with #’s 3 & 4. Yeah. That was a horrible time and my GP finally figured out what would work and I got back on track.

I remember that time as horrible and dark. I dreaded the night. It was a terror for me; the long, dark hours, when I knew my body should be asleep, but could never get enough of it. I would start to get anxious in the late afternoon and it only got worse when I had to try to rest, knowing that I would no sooner close my eyes than someone would be awake crying, screaming, needing me. I was so overwhelmed, I felt like my entire world as I knew it had ended and I was left in this unending hell of sleep-deprivation, agitation, anger, and crying. It was a never-ending cycle of depression.

One thing I will say is this: if you find yourself suffering from “baby blues” (I personally just LOVE that name! Talk about downplaying it!!!) or crying for no apparent reason, feeling overwhelmed, etc. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR! They are there to help you. Post partum depression can last longer than you think, and why suffer when there is so much help out there for you? You got this, girl. Just reach out for help!

Searching for Peace

This past few days have been extremely rough on our family. As I shared before, child #3 was up at a healing place to get treatment recommendations for her issues. She was there for six weeks and came home on Friday. We made it two hours before she had a panic attack and broke down crying. We left the store as quickly as possible, but it just got worse from there.

In fact it got so rough today, that we, again, hosted a police officer. Not just one from our village, though. We hosted the chief of police and two county deputies. It wasn’t pretty, but with her caseworker’s help, we were able to get her calmed down and functional again.

Please keep praying for our family, as we so desperately need it. I know God has a plan for this child and I refuse to give up. That, however, doesn’t mean I do not need much help from everyone, especially prayers. It makes it very difficult at our home, which seems to trigger her. It is possible that is because this is where her father abused her and her siblings, as well as me. I would love to move far away from it, but the financial situation being as it is, that is not possible. God knows this and He will see us through. He always has.

God bless you all,

Rita

An Italian Feast

The other night we had an Italian feast. We love all sorts of different foods here, but Italian is one of our favorites, though my indigestion does not always agree.

Child #4 was scheduled to cook dinner and we were having spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic bread. YUUUUUUMMMMM!!! This is a big dinner for anyone, so I decided to help child #4. She mixed up the meatballs, something I don’t bother with if I’m cooking on a weeknight. Frying the 1 inch meatballs took only about 20 minutes, but it’s a step I skip in the essense of time. I usually just stir in a little ground beef and Italian sausage and then add the sauce.

Now, I know there are purists out there, but I need shotcuts when I’m cooking, otherwise we’d be eating at 9 p.m. or later! So, I found this sauce that I truly love and then I add some of my spices to make it my own. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is no longer jarred sauce when I am done.

My favorite spaghetti sauce is the Classico 4 Cheese sauce. To that I add the following:

1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. granulated onion

1 tsp. granulated garlic

While your sauce is melding flavors, boil your gf spaghetti noodles to package instructions.

Garlic Bread

What would Italian food be without garlic bread? Not nearly as delicious!!! So here is how to make it gluten-free and so mouth watering that you might want to double it to have left-overs!!!!

1 package, Schar Gluten Free Baguettes (2 baguettes – 13.2 ounces)

1 1/2 sticks butter (no substitutes, please!)

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

Dried parsley for sprinkling

Good parmesian for sprinkling

Cut your gf baguettes into 1/2 inch slices. Prepare your pan by covering a cookie sheet with foil. Melt butter in a wide dish, like a glass pie plate (30 seconds at a time in the microwave, stirring after each cycle.) When butter is melted, add minced garlic and stir in. Dip each bread slice in the butter-garlic mixture and set face up on your prepared pan. When all your slices are dipped, use any extra butter-garlic mixture to pour over the bread on the pan. Sprinkle with parsley and parmesian and put under broiler (not too close!) until golden brown. This could take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, though I can’t be sure how your oven or toaster oven will work, so keep a close eye on it!

When it is golden brown remove it from your oven and serve. Absolutely the best garlic bread you will ever taste! Just make sure you use the parmesian that is sold in the cooler case, and not the one that is stored on shelves until it is opened!!! Enjoy!!!!

Zest for Life

Ready to Zest?

Have you ever wondered what the difference between lemon peel and lemon zest was? When I first started cooking as a child, I had absolutely no idea about zest. What we had was an old bottle filled with dried “lemon peel.” It was old and I in no way wanted to add that to any of my baking.

Fast forward about fifteen years and I discovered the magic of zest. Zest is the colored part of the lemon. You carefully zest a lemon to get just the colored part, leaving the white part, the pith, behind. Zest gives a spectacular flavor without having to add a lot of lemon juice. In fact, before I knew I had celiac disease, this is what my sister and I used to make our lemon bars zippy. I don’t care for lemon bars that taste like sugar. If they don’t have the zip of lemon zest then what’s the point? They may as well be called sugar bars, because the certainly don’t taste like lemon!!!

So, what exactly is my point? What if I told you that you could have fresh lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit zest year-round and not just in January when those fruits are at their peak? You can! Here’s what you need to do:

When you find a good deal on citrus, buy it! Take it home, wash it, and zest it onto a large, flat, movable surface. I like to use a dinner plate. Lining your flat surface with parchment paper will help it not to stick to said surface. When your zesting is done, spread out the zest on the parchment paper on your flat surface and transfer to your freezer for an hour or two. When your time is up and your zest is frozen, take your flat surface from your freezer and store your frozen zest in a food storage bag or other container until you are ready to use it. Freezing it first on the flat surface allows it to harden into more individual pieces and not into one hard lump. This way you can easily break off a piece for some yummy lemon bars, lime bars, Greek-style chicken, etc. Now that’s a good use of zest!!!

Grandmotherly Wisdom

My grandmotherly wisdom grandma

I was thinking the other day about my grandma and how she had a wisdom for any occasion. Have a stye in your eye? Well then you must have peed in the street! Does your nose itch? Then you’re going to kiss a fool! Are you sure? Of course, but you can’t be positive. Why? Because only fools are positive!

I grew up with these “grandmaisms” and never really thought much about them until I got my first stye. Then my mom quoted her mother’s ism back to me, and I was horrified! I certainly did not pee in any street!

Grandma hit me with a different one when I was angry one day. I said I was so mad and do you know what she told me? Only dogs are mad. You’re angry! You bet I am now, grandma!!!

Now, even my children have heard these little nuggets of grandmotherly wisdom. No one in our house is ever positive. Because, after all, only fools are positive! Thanks grandma!

Please share your grandmother’s wisdoms with me! It would be fun to see if anyone else grew up with these twisted little nuggets, or if it was just our strange little family!

Summer Chili

Yummy Summer Chili!!!

It’s getting warm out and you may not have chili on the brain. However, this is a much lighter version of a heavy Fall/Winter chili. It is light, fresh, and very flavorful. My chili is not hot, but flavorful. If you are afraid of the heat, you may add another can of plain petite diced tomatoes, but it’s better with the pico de gallo! Here’s what you need:

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 Tbsp. minced dried onions

3 cups water

Break up the ground beef into a large pot filled with the water and dried onions. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain water out of pot and turn your burner to low. Add:

1 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. oregano

1 tsp. dried basil

1 Tbsp. granulated onion

1 tsp. granulated garlic

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cumin

Sprinkle onto the meat and stir in, letting the spices bloom as you turn the burner up to medium high heat, stirring constantly. Cook for two minutes and turn back to low. Add:

32 ounces of tomato sauce

2, 15 oz. cans of petite diced tomatoes

1 cup pico de gallo

2, 14.5 oz. cans of two of the following kinds of beans, drained and rinsed: black beans, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, or kidney beans.

Simmer chili for a minimum of 30 minutes to meld flavors, stirring frequently.

My bowl of chili!

Serve with fried corn chips, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, fresh avocado, scallions or green onions, sour cream or any other topping your heart desires. (Though I wouldn’t suggest hot fudge or whipped cream!!!)